The Boy and I are currently on our second re-read of the Winnie the Pooh stories by AA Milne. This works for me; it makes the bedtime story a laught a minute, and he's quite happy to carry on reading on his own until he feels sleepy.
Last night I read him the beginning of 'In which Tigger is unbounced' from The House at Pooh Corner.
One day, Rabbit and Piglet were sitting outside Pooh's front door listening to Rabbit, and Pooh was sitting with them. It was a drowsy summer afternoon, and the forest was full of gentle sounds, which all seemed to be saying to Pooh, "Don't listen to Rabbit, listen to me." So he got into a comfortable position for not listening to Rabbit, and from time to time he opened his eyes to say "Ah!" and then closed them again to say "True," and from time to time Rabbit said, "You see what I mean Piglet," very earnestly, and Piglet nodded earnestly t show that he did.
"In fact," said Rabbit, coming to the end of it at last, "Tigger's getting so Bouncy nowadays that it's time we taught him a lesson. Don't you thing so, Piglet?"
Piglet said that Tigger was very Bouncy, and that if they could think of a way of unbouncing him, it would be a Very Good Idea.
"Just what I feel," said Rabbit. "What do you say, Pooh?"
Pooh opened his eyes with a jerk and said, "Extremely."
"Extremely what?" asked Rabbit.
"What you were saying," said Pooh. "Undoubtably."
Piglet gave Pooh a stiffening sort of nudge, and Pooh, who felt more and more that he was somewhere else, got up slowly and began to look for himself.
"But how shall we do it?" asked Piglet. "What sort of a lesson Rabbit?"
"That's the point," said Rabbit.
The word 'lesson' came back to Pooh as one he had heard somewhere before.
"There's a thing called Twy-stymes;" he said. "Christopher Robin tried to teach it to me once, but it didn't."
"What didn't?" said Rabbit.
"Didn't what?" said Piglet.
Pooh shook his head.
"I don't know," he said. "It just didn't. What are we talking about?"
"Pooh," said Piglet reproachfully, "haven't you been listening to what Rabbit was saying?"
"I listened, but I had a small piece of fluff in my ear. Could you say it again, please, Rabbit?"
Rabbit never minded saying things again, so he asked where he should begin from; and why Pooh had said from the moment when the fluff got into his year, and Rabbit had asked when that was, and Pooh had said he didn't know because he hadn't heard properly. Piglet settled it all by saying that what they were trying to do was, they were just trying to think of a way to get the bounces out of Tigger, because however much you liked him, you couldn't deny it, he did bounce.
"Oh, I see," said Pooh.
"There's too much of him," said Rabbit, "that's what it comes to."
Pooh tried to think, and all he could think of was something which didn't help at all. So he hummed it very quietly to himself.
If Tigger was smaller,
Then Tigger's bad habit
Of bouncing at Rabbit
If Rabbit was taller.
We read this part together and it suddenly hit me: This is our youngest dog in every way. Who knew? We actually have a Tigger under our roof, and his name is Buddy. I think the original Tigger must have been an unusually marked short-coat border collie. We rescued Buddy's original owners so we don't know anything about his family tree, but I'm willing to be that if you go back far enough there would be at least one ancestor with orange and black stripes.
You'll note that I say we rescued Buddy's owners. I don't consider our sweet bonehead of a Buddy to be a typical rescue dog like the others we have. When we went to see him, he was a good-natured, happy-go-lucky young dog without a scrap of trauma. No, it was his loving owners that had that 'bunny-in-headlights' look that accompanies the working dog trying and failing to be a pet.
I'd like to say that doing agility and going to work every day with The Old Git has helped, but in all honesty it has just honed his working instinct to a point like a laser. That is not the same as saying that he's had any success in agility competition. But he's trying.
Anyway, Winnie the Pooh. Every time I read the Winnie the Pooh stories I am saddened that they got the Disney treatment and were sanitised and babyfied. There is hardly a baby product out there that hasn't been merchandised with that familiar red jumper (which, incidentally, he doesn't wear in the original illustrations) and Winnie the Pooh is now seen by many children as something for babies, something they are too old for.
Having enjoyed the stories, we got on the Disney train and watched the cartoons, and they were too babyish and moralising to hold The Boy's attention.
But when we read the books, the sly humour of the stories comes out, and it's humour that a very young child wouldn't understand. The characters are occasionally pompous, and not above telling a lie to avoid looking bad. The jokes are dry. They are a delight, and at seven, The Boy is only just capable of getting them on his own. At six we had to point them out to him.
I am so glad we read the books before the cartoons had a chance to put The Boy off them. Winnie the Pooh is wasted on babies.